Sharing power with our students, building trust in the classroom

I have been thinking deeply about how to share power with my students. I was inspired to do so by Shane Safir and Dr. Jamila Dugan as part of their workshop on collecting and using “street data” about our students.

After posing this question on Twitter and getting a lot of powerful answers, Rina Mazor said this:

Bingo! This felt really genuine. I had always shied away from co-creating class norms because to be honest, it felt contrived and a bit fake.

Here is how I adapted Rina’s advice with a class of Intermediate learners and three classes of Novice learners:

  1. I write “CONFIANCE” (trust) on a poster.
  2. I explain that, in order to build trust in the classroom, I personally need the following: “Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart” (what my entire philosophy boils down to and what I am still and always working on, borrowed from Anabelle Allen many years ago).
  3. I pass notecards to my students and ask them to write down one thing that builds trust for them in the classroom. “If there is one thing you need me and your classmates to do in order to build trust, what is it?”
  4. I tell students writing their name on the notecard gives me permission to share what they wrote and mention them by name. If they prefer to contribute anonymously, that is fine. Asking for consent plays a big part in sharing power. As a teacher, I do not automatically own what my students produce in class.
  5. Intermediates write in French, Novices write in English.
  6. I collect the cards and look for themes.
  7. I write the themes in French, using as many cognates and familiar words as possible and translation when needed.
  8. I may ask clarifying questions such as “what does that look like?” “what does that feel like?”
  9. We review the poster together and we make sure everyone feels represented by the words/phrases/sentences. We give it a thumbs up.
  10. We review the co-created class agreements at the beginning of each class until we feel students we know them.

I point at the class agreements when I see students embracing them and I thank them for living and breathing our agreements.

I point at the class agreements when I see students not embracing them and use questioning to see how we could do a better job with a particular agreement.

One class of Novices was particularly chatty, so I asked them to write down on a notecard which of our agreements they wanted to work on as a personal goal. Unsurprisingly, they all wrote “listening to each other”. I collected the cards and at the beginning of next class, I handed out the cards back to them, reminding them to work on their personal goal. They did a wonderful job self-monitoring their individual goal.

With a Middle School 7th grade Novice class
With an Adult Intermediate class
They look good in Canva

If you would like to contribute ideas to how we can continue to share power with our students, please contribute to this Twitter conversation or leave a comment here. Merci!

One comment

  1. Thank you for this! I have wanted to co create norms with my class but felt a bit awkward about the best way to do it. I love this set up!
    This year I’m working to speak more French in my level 1 and 2 classes. For your level 1, did you stay mostly in English because of the topic? Thank you 🙂

Leave a Reply